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Arms and ‘The Man’

It’s no secret that Oxford University invests in arms companies. Some students protest against this; the vast majority either don’t know or don’t care.

Talking about the issue around the office this week, we’ve heard that ‘the end justifies the means’ and ‘I suppose the University just wants to make money’. You can take that as an example of the particular breed of vermin which put together this paper if you like, but in many ways this majority view is the more honest approach to take.

We all made the decision to come to the richest University in the UK. We all benefit from the one-on-one tutorials, the best-stocked libraries in the country, the subsidised college punts (obligatory reference to it now being Trinity term) and the perfectly-manicured lawns. Presumably the University doesn’t invest in arms because its finance directors are fabulously evil geniuses with a view to continuing war in the third world; just as Oxford doesn’t experiment on animals simply because it likes the sound of kittens crying. It invests this way because it has been shown to be the most lucrative. And we all benefit from the proceeds.

Anyway, most of us would find it hard to get ourselves worked into a righteous rage about a reported £5.8 million of arms investments. Out of the University’s overall portfolio, this percentage is tiny. (Take note, OxStu. Try not to misquote figures by roughly £700 million in future, and remember always to read to the end of FOI requests.)

But let’s please not pretend that this investment is moral or socially acceptable. The ends may justify the means – debate at leisure – but it’s insulting to suggest that the funding of arms companies is ‘a good thing’, or one which benefits anyone directly aside from the investor. You can hold your nose and accept it, or you can speak out against it.

What you cannot do is set up a ‘Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee’ – as our front page reports this University as having done this week – to give a veneer of moral legitimacy to an ethically dubious portfolio. Any social responsibility board which give the go-ahead to a scheme which potentially funds weapons sold on to illegal regimes is obviously a joke.

The boundaries it draws in investment policy are also laughable. So Oxford won’t invest in the development or production of “land mines and cluster bombs”? Slow clap, guys. Caveats like these do not an ethical portfolio make.

Oxford’s biggest moral issue arguably isn’t the way it invests its money. It is the way it churns out lines of graduates who run to The City to roll around in whatever dollar they can find, regardless of the wider consequences.

With an institutional culture like this, that’s hardly surprising.

Moralising editorial over. Now let’s lighten up

‘We understand that a section of the University has taken the Cherwell seriously. It would be a mistake to deduce that Cherwell takes any section of the University seriously.’

It was with these words in 1920, almost ninety years ago, that everyone’s favourite red-top-in-spirit came into existence. We face what threatens to be a serious term. There are serious elections happening and for many of us, there are serious exams which may very well decide our future. But, then again, it is equally likely that they will not. This may of be no consolation to those still sans facebook, phone and life, fretting about missing the culmination of their education so far, but isn’t it all rather funny? Think – today Britain is broken.

Not because of terrorists hiding dynamite in their swimming trunks, or angry communists wringing the neck of a crumbling government, but because of a bit of dust  projectile vomited out of an unpronouncible mountain one thousand miles away. It’s Trinity, after all, and rose-tinted spectacles are the accessory of the season.

So, with Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) as our god, let us worship in the church of ‘shit happens’ and  remember that life is far too important to be taken seriously. Oxford Union, be at your most scandolous, ridiculous and snide. OUCA, newly vowelly endowed, we look forward to hearing from you. And Oxford, our teacher, our friend, do what you like; invest, ban, report, remove, send down, spend, cut, spend. Just remember this. You take us seriously at your peril. We wish you all a pleasant term.

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